Raised Quiverfull: Mattie’s Story

A post in the Raised Quiverfull series.

Part 1: Introductory Questions

Please introduce yourself before we get started. Are you married or unmarried? Are you in school, holding down a job, or staying home? Do you have children? What religious beliefs or lack thereof do you ascribe to today? Provide whatever additional information you like.

I’m “Mattie Chatham,” of The Nest Egg (the pseudonym and blog title are shamelessly stolen from Wendell Berry’s novel, Jayber Crow). I’m the oldest of nine kids. The youngest is five.  I’m 23, married, with no kids yet. My husband grew up in a similar sort of family (even participating in ATI for a time), but his family was less prone to extremes than mine was/is. At present, I work at a non-profit in the D.C. area doing funding research. My husband is pursuing his certification in music therapy. We attend a fairly conservative Episcopal church and would consider ourselves Anglican.  We both participated in Sovereign Grace Ministries churches for the large part of our childhoods.

How did your parents first come under the influence of Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull teachings? What leaders did they follow and what publications did they receive?

My parents consider themselves to be first-generation Christians. They were heavily influenced by Mary Pride during their engagement, and always planned to homeschool and have their children court, rather than date.  They were involved in both Vineyard and Sovereign Grace Ministries churches, and subscribed to WORLD Magazine and Above Rubies (and later I would be subscribed to The King’s Daughter Magazine). For school, we used Sonlight Curriculum, Rod & Staff, Beautiful Feet, Gileskirk, Apologia Science, and Alpha Omega LifePacs. We were involved in AWANA, “liturgical dance” troupes, and various sports.

In what ways was your family a “typical” Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull family? In what ways was it “atypical”?

We were “typical” in that we homeschooled and there are nine of us kids. We did a lot of crafts and unit studies on gardening and wilderness survival and various homemaking activities. My dad was suspicious of ATI, so we avoided that quagmire, thankfully.

We were atypical in that we listened to popular (Christian) music, my dad played electric guitar, and the girls were allowed to wear pants. Another atypical element of our family culture was the unstated assumption that all of us would attend college. Education and culture were values in my dad’s family, and they got passed on. We were frequently broke or living frugally out of necessity, but we were raised to appreciate other cultures and the arts. My parents also believed in cultivating a good work ethic from an early age, and we were encouraged to get summer jobs and work in high school. This is rare for most CP/QF families, as girls are usually very sheltered and protected from having to go into the world for employment. As soon as we could prove we could manage our time well and get schoolwork done well and on time, we were encouraged to use our free time to earn a little money to save up for travel or college.

Part 2: Living the Life

What sort of a church did your family go to while you were growing up? Were the other families who attended the church also involved in the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?

My family attended a number of different churches over the years. We started out in Calvary Chapel, participated in two different Vineyard churches, joined a run-of-the-mill evangelical non-denominational church, and then we moved from CA to VA to be part of a Sovereign Grace Ministries church (then PDI). We attended there for some 10 years, and that was the only church we went to where we weren’t the only large family or the only homeschoolers. At that church, most of the families had 6-8 kids and homeschooled. I left this church when I moved out and went away to college. My family left about three years later, when some abuses of authority by the leadership were exposed.

In many ways, every Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull couple has a different dynamic. What sort of a dynamic did your parents have? Was one more sold on the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology than the other? Or, if you grew up in a broken family, how did this affect your experience?

My parents consider themselves to be first-generations Christians. My dad’s parents were divorced, my mom’s dad was an alcoholic. Dad “got saved” in his senior year of high school, mom “got saved” her sophomore year of college. They joined a young church full of young marrieds with similar stories, and were introduced to Mary Pride, homeschooling, and the concept of courtship.

My parents have always been very united in their vision for what our family was to be like. They never questioned homeschooling or having more kids–in their minds it was a spiritual calling for them and for us as a family. It was an identity, and it was something to be proud of.

Eventually, their unity on this (and other things) got somewhat fragmented as my dad had to take a second job and grew more burdened with family stress and his own issues. Mom dealt with repeated postpartum depression and felt increasingly isolated socially as she kept having babies while most of her friends stopped. She reacted to the increased stress by being more emotional, and my dad reacted to the stress by withdrawing. My dad grew more ingrained with the programmatic elements of CP/QF teachings, and my mom started to question things a little and ask about putting some of us in private school. She’s never been too serious about that, though, and they instead focused their energies as a couple on church issues, and getting out of an abusive church situation. Leaving [that church] has since cleared up a lot of tensions and long-lasting issues between my parents and within the family as a whole.

How often did you, your siblings, and your parents read the  Bible? Were you guided by your parents or pastors in how to interpret the Bible, especially certain passages, or were you generally free to form your own ideas about what the Bible said?

We were supposed to read the Bible every day. Dad had his devotions over his coffee in the dark of the early morning. Mom read the Bible out loud to the babies and toddlers who would come and climb in bed with her in the morning when they first woke up. She would lead “Bible Time” with the older kids later in the morning, after breakfast and chores were done. We were told to not read anything if we hadn’t read the Bible first.

We didn’t really rely on pastors for interpretation, at least not until we were in SGM. Most of our interpretation of the Bible came from concordance searches and dad’s little studies that he’d do every so often. Various books helped out as well, but I don’t remember clearly which ones influenced them most.

When we moved to VA and joined the SGM church, we accepted almost everything they taught. I think my parents had some concerns about the reformed theology, but almost everything else taught from the pulpit was accepted.

We kids were very strongly encouraged to go to the concordance and study the Bible to see what God had to say about various issues. I remember doing searches on “anger,” “pride,” “forgiveness,” “baptism,” etc. This was also a form of correction for misdeeds: “You hit your brother? Go see what the Bible says about anger. Write out ten verses and then let’s talk about what they say.”

What role did race play in the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull community in which you grew up? Were there any black or hispanic families? Were they treated differently?

Where we lived in CA was a very rural area, so there were mostly white, blue-collar folks in our homeschool group. There were a lot of Hispanics in our church, but we were the only homeschoolers.

When we moved to VA, there was a lot more diversity in the homeschooling community, but those adhering to the ideas of the Quiverfull movement were primarily white and upper-middle class. People didn’t treat each other differently and race was pretty much irrelevant.

Part 3: A Gendered Childhood

How many siblings did you grow up with? Did responsibilities in your family differ by gender, with the girls having certain chores and the boys having others? Explain.

As I said, I’m the oldest of nine kids. There are four boys, five girls. Most of the older kids are girls, so we did a lot of the chores involved in running the household and helping with the babies. Everyone pitched in, though. I mowed the lawn. My brother changed diapers and babysat. The only gender-segregated chore assignment was that taking out the trash was a guy’s job (usually) and doing the laundry was only for the girls.

If  you were an older daughter, do you feel that you were expected to play “mother” for your younger siblings? Explain.

My mom had twin boys when I was 13. Because of the timing and the stress of having twins and various other factors, I was heavily involved in helping out with them (and the two babies that came after them) until they were about four years old. My senior year of high school I asked to be relieved of a lot of these babysitting and mothering responsibilities so I could focus on school and graduate on time, and my parents rearranged schedules and chores to accommodate that request.

However, I still feel closely bonded to the twins and their little brother, as I invested a lot of time and love in them during my teens. I’m their godmother now, and I think that’s both appropriate and special.

In what ways were boys and girls in your family expected to dress or act differently from each other? Were there certain things it was appropriate for girls to do but not boys, and vice versa?

The most obvious thing was modesty. The boys could do just about whatever they wanted and could go shirtless or pee in the woods, but we girls were told to cover up, sit like ladies, and to wear shorts under our skirts if we were going to be active. The boys were also permitted a wider radius from the house for bike rides than the girls were.

In what ways were boys and girls in your family raised differently vocationally (i.e., the boys pushed toward careers and the girls pushed toward homemaking)? How did this play out as you came of age (apprenticeship, college, staying home, etc.)?

As I mentioned before, we were all somewhat pushed to go to college. The girls were expected to know how to keep a house and cook and care for babies, however. The boys learned some of those skills as well, but not in any deliberate fashion. Motherhood was upheld (for the girls) as being the highest calling, so the encouragement for girls in college is not so much for career-building purposes, but for educational benefit (we were raised to assume we’d eventually be stay-at-home moms).  The boys are encouraged to pursue their interests and passions in college, but there’s more concern for them to have a plan for how their degree will pay off later.

Part 4: Homeschooling

Why and when did  your parents originally decide to homeschool? Did their reasons for homeschooling change over time?

As I mentioned before, my parents always planned to homeschool. They felt that they, and no one else, were responsible for their children’s education (referencing Deuteronomy 6:7). Education is inseparable from faith, in their minds, and this was something they believed was a responsibility and a calling from God.

Briefly describe your experience being homeschooled, including the amount of interaction you had with other homeschoolers or non-homeschoolers (socialization) and what sorts of textbooks or homeschool program your family used (academics).

My dad once said with some disdain that homeschoolers who participated in homeschool co-ops and group classes were “faux-schoolers.” However, we did have some small group classes for extracurriculars and I took French and art from local women who taught classes in their homes. Our family friends were almost always other Christian homeschoolers, and we were fairly well-socialized [albeit primarily within that demographic]. When we took ballet or gymnastics or martial arts, we made friends with the other kids and didn’t seem to have any socialization issues beyond general pop culture ignorance.

What do you see as the pros and cons of having been homeschooled? Do you feel that your homeschool experience prepared you well socially? Academically?

For school, we used Sonlight Curriculum, Rod & Staff, Beautiful Feet, Gileskirk, Apologia Science, and Alpha Omega LifePacs. I think I suffered in math due to lack of good teaching, but I was largely prepared for college because I taught myself how to learn on my own and how to manage my time. The point was not to ace the test–the point was to gain an education. And I thrived in college because of this mindset.

While I don’t necessarily endorse the specific curricula my parents chose for me, I feel that I came out with a real passion for learning and a delight in education. A con of this big-family lifestyle and homeschooling was that we didn’t get a lot of one-on-one tutoring unless we were seriously failing a subject. We were all expected to figure out how to follow the textbook and do the work of using it to teach ourselves. Mom was often too busy or tired to give specific attention to questions we had, and dad wasn’t ever available to help with homework unless it was for an intervention. For example: my sophomore year of high school, I read classics all day and drew and painted instead of doing my assigned schoolwork, and my parents found out after I’d “lost” three months of school by doing this. My dad stepped in and gave me a talk about using my time wisely and priorities, and then left the details of fixing this issue up to my mom.

Do you perceive of your academic or social abilities differently today than you did when you were being homeschooled?

I think I could be “a math person” if I had been adequately equipped in primary school to master the concepts. (Also, in  homeschool circles, the gender divide between maths and sciences, and arts and humanities seems to be more pronounced.)

As for social abilities, I find that I am coming around to be more like the person I was before puberty and before I was paralyzed with fear over modesty teachings and gender role mandates. I am more myself and more comfortable socially, as a result.

Do you plan to homeschool/are you homeschooling your children? Why or why not? If you do plan to homeschool, in what ways will you/do you do it differently from your parents?

I reserve the right to change my mind on this, but: I tentatively plan to homeschool. My husband has a vision for the possibilities that open up for a thorough and tailored education when a student has more freedom and one-on-one attention. I benefitted from this myself, and am really glad I had the opportunities I had as a homeschooler to study more thoroughly certain things which caught my attention.

That said, I would like to avoid the pitfalls which my family experienced: homeschooling isn’t an identity or a calling–we’ll do it if it’s the best option available. We’ll re-evaluate the decision to homeschool for each child, each year. I also will be very open to co-op classes and collaborative learning opportunities. And finally, I need to be very careful to avoid letting myself get burned out and becoming depressed (like my mom did a time or two). My husband is heartily in favor of this and wants to be really involved in teaching our kids (unlike my dad), and this excites me.

Part 5: Purity

What were you taught about physical purity, emotional purity, and courtship and dating? How was sex education handled?

The element of sex education really varies among children of these movements. My experience, I am finding, was fairly unusual. When I was 12 or so, I decided that I wanted to be an Ob/Gyn, but was turned away from this idea because I was “bad at math.” So I decided I’d be the next best thing: a nurse-midwife. While this vision never panned out, I really learned a lot and was helped out by this ambition. My mom is an RN, and was pregnant with twins at the time. So I got to attend all her Ob appointments with her and read books on childbirth and female health from among her nursing school textbooks. I asked frank questions and got (mostly) frank answers. So I generally knew enough about sex education to both satisfy my curiosity and help me be fairly comfortable with my own body (paralyzing modesty and fear of male lust aside!).

My parents always told me (even as a very little girl) that I would court rather than date, because dating was practice for divorce. We later joined SGM, which heavily promoted Josh Harris’s Boy Meets Girl as the best biblical guide to pre-marital relationships. I was told that having crushes and dating was “tearing out pieces of my heart and giving them away” and so I was afraid of letting myself have a crush on someone I was friends with, for fear of… [who knows what]. I had a couple crushes in high school, and they were always on some young guy in leadership or favored by the pastors. If he was distant, bright, and pastor-material, I probably journaled about how much I liked him…and never talked to him.

I never really had any guy friends until college. Before I left for school, I confidently told my friends and parents that I wouldn’t get involved with anyone during school, but if something did come up that was obviously God’s will, I’d hold off on “entering a courtship” until the second semester of my senior year. I also told myself and others that I wouldn’t hold hands with anyone until I was engaged to him, and I wouldn’t tell any guy I loved him until I was wearing his ring. I would save my first kiss until “maybe a week before the wedding” and would absolutely be a virgin on my wedding night.

Did you participate in a parent-guided courtship? If so, what was your experience? If not, why not?

I began to shy away from the rigorous courtship “plan” that I initially had when I got to school and had a few guys who were interested in me and went to my dad for approval without discussing anything with me first. This was horribly awkward and frustrating, and I began to want more control over my relationships with guys. When I fell for my husband, it was quite a surprise to me and happened fairly quickly during my sophomore year. We hung out all the time and were best friends, and so eventually he decided to approach my dad. But since he didn’t meet all the standards that my parents and I had initially laid out for “a prospective suitor,” my dad told him that we couldn’t court/date. A few months later, I decided that this wasn’t realistic or right, and told my dad this. But since I still wanted his approval, we walked through a process of getting my dad’s blessing on our relationship, and even hashed out an understanding where we were going to “call it dating” but still have my parents involved.

Once we were dating, this system didn’t work out very well, because my dad felt that he had the final responsibility for the health of the relationship and was overly involved, and I was making decisions with my boyfriend (like deciding to kiss, without consulting my dad for approval) that he didn’t like.  There was also a big to-do over the fact that my boyfriend had student loans and I didn’t, and my dad saw these loans as sinful debt that would have to be paid off if we were to get his permission to marry.

I finally put my foot down and told my dad that I was an adult and that I was going to do what I believed to be right and appropriate, and that we’d ask his blessing if we decided to get married, but that he was not “in charge” of this relationship. This didn’t go over so well, but time and physical distance made this transition easier. My boyfriend also sat down with my dad and told him that he saw me as an equal and an adult, and that neither of them had the right to try to control my decisions.

We did get married with my parents blessing, respecting their preference for a short engagement, and tried to the best of our ability to keep them satisfied that we were making thoughtful decisions and being mature. But this was mostly because I wanted to respect my parents and not cause a scene that would make my siblings question my parents’ authority.

How do you feel about purity and courtship teachings today? Have you rejected some parts of it and kept other parts of it? How do you plan to handle these issues with your own children?

I’m still sorting this one out. I think that Christians need to kill the double standard for purity/virginity and be consistent–if girls have to be virgins to be pure, so do guys. If girls need to guard their hearts and not have crushes, so do guys. But most of those teachings are idyllic BS and really give no practical or grace-filled help to teens struggling with sex drives, insecurity, and desiring to please God.

My husband and I did things before we were married that a lot of Christians would say was “going too far.” But I don’t regret any of the things we did, and I think our married sex life is healthier than it would be if we hadn’t. If anything, I regret that I spent so many years agonizing over the guilt I had for having a sex drive and desiring intimacy, for looking like a woman and wanting to dress like I had a figure. That guilt and fear paralyzed me and were not of the God that I know. Jesus doesn’t deal in fear–perfect love casts out fear.

I think Christians really can’t address this issue in any productive or healthy way until they have established for themselves a holistic theology of the body. I hope, one day, to raise my children to be comfortable with their bodies, to view physical intimacy as precious and good, and to understand that their bodies and souls are inextricably united (and so all relationships naturally require a physical element if they are to be whole).

And I plan to let my kids date. I don’t want them to define themselves and their love lives by what they are afraid of doing or becoming.

Do you feel that the purity and courtship teachings you were raised with still have lasting impact on your life today? If so, how?

Not if I can help it. Perhaps I’m a lot more cynical than I would be otherwise, and I suppose I enjoy the freedoms I have now more than I might if I had always taken them for granted (wearing a bikini, for example).

Part 6: Questioning

How were you first exposed to “mainstream” American culture? What were your first impressions?

I was sort of always aware of mainstream culture—we had “worldly” cousins, I was friends with the neighborhood kids, etc. My childhood friends were mostly kids with more “normal” families, and I remember being introduced to the Dixie Chicks and NSYNC and Britney Spears all in one year (I think I was 9), when my friend’s mom got MTV. I was also introduced to the word “shit,” the concept of an affair, and the idea of a “bitch” around that time, from the same family.

I remember being judgmental (but secretly amused) at the music, and was horrified to watch my friend’s parents’ marriage fall apart. (She said her mom wasn’t having sex with her boyfriend—he was just sleeping over. I told her that was impossible.) I was appalled at their use of crude language and tried to talk my friend out of saying “shit” all the time.

Another impression that comes to mind: when I turned 6, my parents had just gotten our first TV, and my grandma bought me a copy of The Little Mermaid for my birthday. I only saw it a couple times before it was removed from the house–she was rebellious and had a bad attitude toward her dad. I still walked around the house wearing a blanket around my hips and my mom’s bra over my t-shirts for a year or so, pretending to be Ariel. But I had to be a respectful to my dad, because Ariel was a bad girl. Mom said so.

What first made you question the beliefs you were raised with? Was this initial questioning a frightening or liberating experience?

Two things, mainly, started me off on questioning my parents’ values and ideologies. The first was the abusive church we were part of for nearly 10 years.  Once I left for college, I began realizing that not only did I not fit in at that church, but that I didn’t want to try. I began putting the puzzle pieces together on some of the cognitive dissonance I had experienced there, and then began the process of sorting out what I actually believed. This led to the gradual unravelling of my firmly-held beliefs in courtship and also bolstered my confidence in my choice to go to college and pursue education and a career, rather than being a stay-at-home-daughter, waiting for prince charming to notice me.

The second thing, which really pushed me beyond timid questioning and into freedom, was my experience with my husband and the things we learned together as we dated and worked things through with my dad. For the first time, I felt like I was loved unconditionally and didn’t have to be afraid of not meeting expectations. And that feeling radically liberated me to see things as they were and begin to open up to a more healthy understanding of life and grace and people.

What did you struggle with most when you were in the midst of questioning and/or leaving Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology? What was the hardest part?

When I was questioning and shifting away from CP/QF, the hardest part was the effect it had on my relationship with my parents. I love them dearly and enjoy their friendship, and as most firstborns do, I strongly crave their approval and affirmation.  As my new ideas and “controversial” lifestyle choices began to rub them the wrong way, they would confront me, concerned about my spiritual state. I’d defend my choices reasonably, and my dad would often end up taking my choices as a personal rejection of him (as his beliefs are intrinsically tied in with his identity). Our relationship became seriously strained over these issues, and I began to dread visits home, as he’d often take that opportunity to grill me about why I was thinking and saying (and especially blogging) critical things about their parenting choices and Christian Patriarchy as a whole.

Around that same time, my sister was “coming out” and processing these things too, but because she was my younger sister, there was often an assumption that I was influencing her actions and thoughts. Nothing could be farther from the truth—she started this process very independently from me, and while we sometimes compared our observations and conclusions, she was really seriously working out her issues with CP/QF on her own.

Once my parents realized that I was more critical of the trends and the system of beliefs than I was of them personally, they relaxed a bit. It took about a full year for our relationship to go from anger and resentment all around to civility, and later kindness and friendship. That process was almost more emotionally grueling than sorting through the damage done by CP/QF itself.

Among those you grew up around who were also raised with Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology, what proportion has remained in the movement and what proportion has left?

The proportion of my peers from CP/QF (and SGM) leaving the movement grows every few months or so. Honestly, it’s almost too early to really say how many will leave and how many will stay—my peer group is either still in college or just finishing up and only a few have gotten married and settled down. I expect as more go through adult life transitions, more will realize that strict complementarianism doesn’t work well in marriage, that courtship can still leave them brokenhearted, and that they need to make adult decisions independently from their parents. Right now, about half of my peers have either accepted that SGM isn’t the “only good church” out there, and have moved beyond the idealism of courtship. Others are still in SGM or similar churches, and don’t realize that the Church is much bigger than their limited experience, and that there are happy, healthy families whose guiding principles defy all their current assumptions.

Part 7: Relating to Family

How did your parents and siblings respond to you questioning/rejecting their beliefs? How did those you grew up with respond?

My siblings are pretty accepting of my changes, and are (mostly) all progressing along behind me with questions and new ideas. The internal dynamics within my family have changed a great deal in the last three years, and things are steadily getting healthier. My parents, despite their initial anger and disappointment, are gradually re-evaluating their beliefs and trying more deliberately to love their children unconditionally.

My friends from childhood have either not realized that I’ve changed, lost touch with me since college, or have changed enough themselves that we now have a lot in common once again. There have been a few who have rejected me outright, but those have either been friends who assumed I was still super conservative and legalistic, or those who won’t accept grey areas and nuances in faith.

What is your relationship with your parents and siblings like today? What is your relationship with those you grew up with who remained in the movement like?

My siblings and I are much closer as a result of this process. We are finally getting along with each other in ways we never could when duty and performance defined our family dynamics. It’s really great to have this season of change and exploration together.

My CP/QF friends either don’t know that I’ve changed (I’m living in a different state now, and I was the only one of our group to go out of state for college) and think that I’m living the happy newlywed CP life, or keep me at a distance, asking me questions about my beliefs or opinions if they are curious about anything.

For those who are no longer Christian, are you “out” to your parents or siblings? If so, how did you do it and how did they respond?

I’m still a Christian, but I was the first of my family to move beyond the abusive church we were part of, and after I went Anglican, the rest of my family followed about two years later.

Have any of your siblings (or perhaps even parents) left Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy ideology? How do you approach the relationships with siblings who have not?

I have one sister who is still strongly for courtship and emotional purity, etc. She’s still fairly young, so I expect that she’ll gradually relax her views over time, or if not, she’ll go that route and not really involve her other siblings in that process. I try to avoid pushing her buttons when we’re together, and try to remind her that she is beautiful and smart and can do whatever she wants to do with her life, and that her college options don’t need to be limited to just Bible schools.

With my very young siblings, none of this comes up or is an issue. I’m sure we’ll have conversations about these things years later, but not now.

Part 8: Adjusting

Do you still feel as though you are “different” or that your past experiences emotionally isolate you from society?

I think I’ve caught up and adjusted all right, thanks to a thorough pop culture education from my fantastically patient friends at college, and my husband’s great sense of humor. My coworkers are occasionally weirded out by the random information I know, but I don’t think I come across as homeschooled anymore.

Since most of the world doesn’t understand Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy culture, do you feel this creates barriers in friendships or in romantic relationships? Do people have a hard time understanding you and your past?

I’m usually able to brush things off by saying “I was homeschooled,” or “I’m the oldest of nine kids,” and that tends to clear up a lot of confusion. I don’t like explaining in a lot of detail what my background is, since most people just won’t understand even if I tell them my story. Usually it’s not important to explain things. My husband is from a similar background, and so we are able to relate over a lot of these things, although his family was a much more healthy and stable than mine was.

What do you think is the biggest way being raised in a family influenced by Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideas has influenced who you are today?

I think I have a better appreciation for multi-generational relationships, and I think that I place a lot of value in cooking a meal from scratch and then enjoying it together with the whole family.  These things aren’t really unique to CP/QF families, but they definitely define who I am and are a direct result of the values my family holds.

How did you perceive your childhood at the time compared to how do you see it now?

My childhood memories are sort of split into two parts: the time before we left CA and moved to VA was really happy, and I think, healthy. My memories of that time are probably fairly true to what that season was like. After we moved and got involved with the SGM church in VA, I was not unhappy with life, but my family wasn’t in a good place and I remember a lot of agonized prayers that I prayed over issues with fitting in, over trying to submit to my parents, over things that I felt overwhelming loads of guilt for.  Looking back, I can now see how off-balance things were and that I took a lot of guilt onto myself for things that were out of my control, and that I was probably struggling with mild depression at certain points.

Do you sometimes wish to go “back”?

Only to the time before we left CA. I haven’t been able to visit since we left, and so I have a strong desire to return and perhaps find some closure on that part of my life.

Part 9: Helping Others

What advice do you have for other young adults currently questioning or leaving Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology?

Be kind with yourself. Do what works, and don’t agonize over feeling disloyal or like a bad Christian. Processing takes time. Find someone safe you can talk to as you process these things. It’s okay to grieve and be angry, but do look forward and enjoy where you are now.

What was most helpful to you when you were questioning and/or leaving the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?

The most helpful thing for me was having a support system of a patient and thoughtful husband, a best friend who could relate and listen with kindness, and being able to spend time with my in-laws and see that it’s possible to have a lot of kids and still have a healthy family with unconditional love and lots of individuality. I also enjoyed reading Quivering DaughtersToxic Faith, and The Purity Myth as I was processing things—these books gave me names for the things I was working through and had experienced.

What helps you the most today?

Seeing my family gradually change in positive ways is incredible to watch. Perhaps the biggest help for me is being able to attend a healthy church where grace is really emphasized and the tangible parts of life are inextricably tied with the spiritual. Body and soul are not separated and performance doesn’t factor into God’s love for me.

What suggestions do you have for those who might to help friends or relatives who grew up/are growing up in families influenced by the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?

Be patient with them. Don’t stir up conflict or try to change them or “fix” them. Just love them for who they are and let time do its work. Don’t accept their evaluation of who you are or where you’re at—you know yourself and what you can handle, and they cannot control you.  Try to avoid provoking them, and be aware of yourself and your triggers so you can avoid things which damage you.

—————

Mattie blogs at The Nest Egg.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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